It doesn't come with quite the excitement of Michael Jordan's "I'm back!" declaration, but there's certainly relief for the Bulls with the return of starting point guard Kris Dunn for Monday's game against the Dallas Mavericks.
"We'll start Kris and see how the game goes," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after morning practice. "Obviously, his priority has been with his baby, his family, the last couple of days and rightfully so with his first child. So we'll monitor him very closely and see how it's going. He certainly makes a difference for us on both ends of the floor with his ability to pick up the ball and stay in front of the ball and on the other end playing with pace and getting the ball into the paint and his improved outside shot.
"Kris is going to be out there playing off adrenaline; I know that," Hoiberg added. "Not having slept a lot the last few days as all of us who are fortunate enough to have kids understand. It will take a lot of communication with us to see how he's doing, but we're confident Kris will go out there and give us good minutes. He's excited to be back and the team is excited to have him."
If only for the way Saturday's loss ended with Pistons point guard Ish Smith breaking down the Bulls perimeter defense for a game winning layup.
"To be honest, I wish I was out there the first two games," Dunn said. "Not just the last play, but both games. I love to compete, I love to play the game, I love being around my guys. Just play my game, get my guys involved, try to be aggressive, try to get my feel back and my rhythm."
Dunn said, predictably enough, he hasn't slept much since his son, Lennox, was born Thursday.
"It's a blessing," Dunn reiterated. "I think everybody knows when you get your first born you are very excited. My girlfriend, Megan (Cadagan), for both sides (of the family) it's a blessing. Absolutely, absolutely (hard to leave him). I'm a family guy. I like to be around my people; I was upset when I had to leave, but at the end of the day I have to understand I have a job to fulfill. This is where I will put food in his mouth and clothing on his back and shelter."
"Sleep? Nah, you don't get any at all," Dunn acknowledged. "My back is hurting, bouncing him all night, but I'll be all right."
The Bulls hope to be as well after an 0-2 start and playing a Mavericks team coming off a 140-136 victory over Minnesota. The Mavs are averaging 120 points and giving up 128.5 in the first two games, so Dunn better have those legs ready to go. Dallas also has attempted 83 three pointers in the first two games. The Bulls have attempted 54, but Mavericks opponents are shooting 54 percent on threes. It looks like it could be a wild, wild West game.
"It starts in transition with this (Dallas) team," agreed Hoiberg. "We have to get back and have great communication. We did not do that well in our first game against Philly; took a step in the right direction in our second game against Detroit. But this is a team you can see has really emphasized the pace. They took 50 threes the other night against Minnesota.
"We've got two of our better shooters out with Lauri (Markkanen) and Denzel (Valentine)," Hoiberg noted. "You've got two of your probably top three roster players, unfortunately, out of the lineup now who would get those three point numbers up. As far as what we are stressing to our guys now is trying to attack the paint, which I think Zach (LaVine) has really bought into and done a great job getting himself to the rim and to the line. That's where it starts with us. Against Detroit, we outscored them 58-40 in the paint. That's a great sign, so it's a big thing with those two guys out of the lineup is to get the ball into the paint."
Hoiberg also said he expects to play both Cameron Payne and Ryan Arcidiacono off the bench as reserve point guards, in part, because Dallas often plays multiple small players with rookie Jalen Brunson from Stevenson High School in the rotation.
Though for the Bulls, the solace is to once again see their 6-4 point guard, Dunn.
"Defense, defense is what I do," said Dunn. "Try to bring that, help the guys communicate more. Just let me play my game. If I get tired, I will let him know. Still trying to get my legs under me and my rhythm. Running on the treadmill is not the same as assimilating to the basketball court. So I'm going to get winded little bit, but I don't have restrictions. Zach, he's been playing unbelievable. Make sure he gets the ball. Get Bobby (Portis) back on track. He had a tough game the last game, but he contributed in other ways with defense, rebounds. Bobby, he's another great scorer for us. Make sure he gets the ball and try to get Justin (Holiday) in rhythm and at the same time if I see what I like out there, I'll be aggressive."